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Sunday March 26th

Town of Carrboro cancels 2021 Carrboro Music Festival as COVID-19 cases surge

<p>A Carrboro crowd listening to music during a previous Carrboro music festival. Photo courtesy of Scott Scala.</p>
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A Carrboro crowd listening to music during a previous Carrboro music festival. Photo courtesy of Scott Scala.

The Town of Carrboro has canceled the 2021 Carrboro Music Festival, citing rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, according to an announcement Monday.

The annual festival was scheduled for Sept. 25-26 in more than 20 venues across downtown Carrboro. 

“While we are all disappointed, the reactions I have seen from folks in the community, including performers, have been understanding and supportive of the decision,” council member Damon Seils said. “We are very excited about next year’s big anniversary festival.”

Last year's Carrboro Music Festival was held virtually. This year's festival was planned to take place in person, but a rising number of delta variant cases has led to discussions among Town leaders on how to adapt. 

The decision to cancel the festival was made with input from the Carrboro Music Festival Planning Committee, the Town Council and staff.

“We just had to err on the side of caution with this one because it is such a big event,” Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Foushee said. “It draws so many people — not just people from Carrboro and Chapel Hill — but people from everywhere.”

If the festival had not been canceled this year, it still would have looked different than in past years, Foushee said. She added that there were complications with finding venues. 

“Some of the venues that would have been used had already pulled out,” she said. “In the end, it seemed like it was an uncontrollable situation where the spread of the virus could have very easily taken place.”

The Carrboro Music Festival has historically been one of the Town’s largest and most popular events. Recreation Administrator Charles Harrington said the event has featured as many as 200 acts in 25 to 30 venues around downtown Carrboro. 

“In a typical year, it is wonderful to walk all around downtown, go to 15-plus performance stages and hear such a great variety of local music,” Mayor Lydia Lavelle said. “You get to see friends. You get to see people you haven’t seen in a long time.”

While this year’s event would not have been as large as those in past years, many artists had already been preparing and practicing for the event. 

“We were anticipating close to 150 acts this year,” Harrington said. “Our goal this year was to try to offer something as close to the traditional event as possible.” 

The cancellation of this year’s festival reflects the impact that COVID-19 has had on local artists. The Bait Shop Boys, for example, have not performed in front of a live audience since the 2019 Carrboro Music Festival.

“The pandemic has hurt the performing artist community,” band member Patrick McDonough said. “But we love to play, so we are going to find a way to do it.”

Though McDonough hasn't performed live with The Bait Shop Boys for nearly two years, he's found other ways to practice his music. H​​e's accompanied the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Sing-Along in performances that follow mask-wearing and social distancing rules in outdoor venues.

The 2022 Carrboro Music Festival will be the 25th anniversary of the event, which is scheduled to be held next October. Lavelle said the community is already excited to begin planning the milestone celebration. 

“We have some really awesome volunteers in the community who work on this every year,” Lavelle said. “I know they are already starting to think, ‘OK, what can we do next year to bring back the music festival even better than ever?'” 


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